20th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
A young man was walking through the supermarket to pick up a few things, when he noticed an old lady following him around. Thinking nothing of it, he ignored her and continued on. But when he went to the checkout line, she got in front of him.
“Pardon me,” she said, “I’m sorry if my staring at you has made you feel uncomfortable. It’s just that you look a lot like my son, who died recently.”
“I’m very sorry,” replied the young man, “is there anything I can do for you?”
“Yes,” she said, “As I’m leaving, would you be so kind as to say ‘Good bye, Mother!’ ? It would mean the world to me.”
“Sure thing,” answered the young man.
So as the old woman was leaving, he called out, “Goodbye, Mother!” And she waved back.
As he stepped up to the checkout counter, he was surprised that his total was $127.50.
“How can that be?” he asked, “I only purchased a few things!”
The cashier replied, “Well your mother said that you’d pay for her groceries, too!
Fortunately for us, our heavenly mother is way holier than the mother in that checkout line! Instead of getting us to do things for her, Mary’s all about doing things for us! She all about facilitating a closer relationship between us and her Son and our Brother, Jesus Christ. From the time her cousin, Elizabeth, exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb,” (Lk 1:42) — others could tell that Mary was different than the rest of humankind. Her entire adult life, lived in the shadow of her son’s proclamation of the Kingdom and dedicated to fulfilling her maternal role, gave Mary a unique vantage point in knowing how God would fulfill his messianic prophecies through her Son and how God would lead all humankind to embrace a profound, new, and eternal covenant, through the shedding of Jesus’s precious blood on the cross.
In this humble way, of listening and observing, of quietly encouraging and reflecting, of supporting, pointing, and protecting, Mary became an example to us all, of a woman whose entire life and every breath was focussed on being the clear and powerful conduit of God’s grace to all who would seek to draw closer to her Son and to become a part of God’s Kingdom.
This is why we call Mary Blessed! This is why Mary is esteemed above all the other saints that have ever come before and all the saints that ever will come after her! That’s why Mary is considered our mother, as well, and a person to whom we can turn, whenever we’re experiencing any kind of difficulty, trial, or distress.
What’s more, she’s a woman who knows what it’s like to live amid sinners in a sinful world and yet, more significantly, to be a woman who never succumbed to the temptation of sin herself! But wait a minute, you may say. Doesn’t Mary say in the Magnificat that her spirit rejoices in God her Savior? Why would someone who was sinless need a Savior? Good Question, I’m glad you asked! The way we can understand that verse in Mary’s Magnificat is by remembering that back then, as even now, the Jewish people didn’t see themselves as solitary individuals on a journey of faith, all by themselves. No, they saw themselves as one corporate entity, as a body of believers whom God had chosen as his very own and who entered into covenant with them and who promised to be with them through thick and thin. As a Jew herself, then, Mary collectively identifies with the prophetic hope of her people in God’s promise to send a Messiah — a Savior— to earth for them, who would finally deliver the Hebrew people from Roman oppression and usher in the Kingdom of God. When she rejoices in God her savior, she’s rejoicing that God’s promise to his chosen people has been fulfilled in a miraculous way, by her consenting to be the Virgin Mother of God.
Jesus, as her Son and as the long-expected Messiah and who possesses both a human and a divine nature, would go beyond Jewish expectations of what the Messiah could do, and would invite all persons to have faith in him and to become members of God’s kingdom and inheritors of God’s promise of salvation.
Mary, as the sinless Mother of God, then becomes a woman who provides us all —together with her sinless Son —a model of what God had originally envisioned when God created human beings in the first place, and what our lives could be like, if we chose to live in God’s grace 24/7. Such a daily living requires a constant abiding in and listening to God’s Spirit.
Recall that Luke describes Elizabeth as full of the Holy Spirit, when she exclaims, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” And with that realization, what does the baby inside Elizabeth’s womb do when Mary enters the room? The baby, who will be the future John the Baptist, leaps for joy! He leaps for joy because he’s aware of being in the presence of the Blessed Mother of God and the Blessed Son of God! He leaps for joy because he knows that he’ll get to see God’s promises come to fruition in his lifetime! He leaps for joy because he knows that the era of sin has run its course and that now, God’s grace will be superabundantly poured out on all who come to know the Messiah through faith! The baby leaps for joy because the nation of Israel has received its Savior! That baby leaps for joy because the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit has filled his mother and himself with the conviction that the God-made-flesh is now among them, that the Emmanuel is, none other, than Jesus himself!
We know from scripture too, that Mary’s heart was likewise full of the Holy Spirit. We can just hear her heart leaping for joy when Mary prays the Magnificat.
It leapt for joy because of her realization that God had chosen her to be the human vessel through which the most significant life event, ever to occur on our planet, would come to fruition! Mary’s heart leapt for joy because she trusted in God’s plan for her life and was prepared to undergo any sacrifice, suffering, trial or persecution that might be necessary, in order that her son, Jesus, would be able to accomplish his mission.
Like John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb and like Mary herself, when do we leap for joy? Do we leap for joy when we recognize the presence of God in our brothers and sisters engaged in ministry and in those who serve, even when it’s inconvenient or difficult? Do we leap for joy when someone says ‘yes’ to a religious vocation? Do we leap for joy when we receive the Risen Lord in his Body and Blood at Eucharist? Do we leap for joy when our sins are forgiven in the mass or in the sacrament of reconciliation? Do we leap for joy when we witness a baptism being celebrated in our church? Do we leap for joy when we see God living and active in the personal lives of the members of our church? Do we leap for joy when we consider the awesome self-giving life of the Virgin Mary and her deep desire to lead us all to be with Jesus, her Son?
As the sinless Virgin Mother of Christ, when it came time for Mary to leave this earth, she didn’t, she couldn’t die. Recall that St. Paul teaches us in his letter to the Romans that “the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23).” As a consequence, the church teaches that when it came time for Mary to pass on from this life to the eternal life of heaven, she simply fell asleep and the Lord then assumed her glorified Body and Soul into heaven. It’s that awesome event that we celebrate today. Indeed, the Assumption of Mary proclaims to all the world hat we have a strong advocate in heaven, besides Jesus, who’s always ready to plead our cause and lead us steadily toward the new creation! So let us take comfort in Mary’s love for us and show our love in return by drawing closer to Jesus, her Son, each day.
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